Cisco TelePresence Heads for Home (Will You Follow?)

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Cisco Systems is fulfilling a promise to push TelePresence (high-end video conferencing) into the home. It's a timely reminder that managed service providers need to figure out a video strategy. Here's why.

First, the "official" news from Cisco. During CES:

"Cisco will also share its vision and progress toward developing an entirely new category of video communication, called home telepresence, which uses a consumer's existing HDTV and broadband connection to deliver a unique natural video communication experience from the comfort of a living room. Cisco will enter U.S. home telepresence field trials this spring, with Verizon as an early partner. Home telepresence field trials in France will start later in 2010, with France Telecom as Cisco's early partner."
Translation: Keep a close eye on Cisco's TelePresence work with France Telecom and Verizon.

Falling Prices, Rising Opportunities?

When TelePresence debuted a few years back, it cost as much as $300,000 per executive conference room to build out each system. Broadband and monthly administration costs were extra. A few Fortune 500 firms and universities jumped on the bandwagon but the price points were too high for the masses.

Fast forward to the present and...
  • Hotels: Cisco and other networking companies are working with big service providers to install telepresence in hotels. Those systems can be rented on an hourly basis -- allowing executives to drive to their local hotels and host virtual board meetings with peers across the globe.
  • Small and Midsize Businesses: Companies like LifeSize Communications introduced low-priced TelePresence options that cost $10,000 or below. I used the LifeSize system during a meeting at Zenith Infotech's offices in Pittsburgh; I was blown away by the video and voice quality as I communicated with Zenith Infotech CEO Akash Saraf, who was in India.
  • Market-Growing Acquisitions: Logitech acquired LifeSize in December 2009. And Cisco snapped up Tandberg after an extended shareholder debate.
  • A Little (Big) Deal: Perhaps the biggest deal was Cisco buying the Flip video camera business. Flip puts video in everyone's hands. Now, they want it in their living rooms -- through services like FlipShare TV.

MSP Opportunities

At first, I thought MSPs would have big opportunities to manage telepresence systems for a monthly fee. Now I'm not so sure. Seems like the big carriers may wind up dominating opportunities with hotels, airport conference rooms and even consumer homes.

But there are still opportunities abound in video -- from video surveillance to network and bandwidth optimization.

And these won't be niche opportunities. Video is going to be everywhere.
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